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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Bernard Peirce Brent   7 February [1857]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 7th

My dear Sir

I am extremely sorry not to hear better news of your affairs— Your case is a most cruel one: it seems extra hard that you shd. not have even your ancient Family relics.— I most sincerely hope that your London Lawyers may see daylight without ruinous expence.2

Very many thanks for the offer of the Cock, but as I have a Hen, & as the Bird is not quite full-grown, I think it is not worth sending. If ever you have occasion to write, I shd. like to hear whether these silk Fowls can fly as well as other Fowls.—3

Do not trouble yourself at present to send the C. Gardeners.—4

I certainly shd. be extremely glad of a German old fashioned Pouter: by a strange coincidence I was writing to Mr. Tegetmeier this morning, & had asked him to apply to Carstang for one; but I have struck out the passage.5 If you will be so kind as to enquire, I shd. be very much obliged, & Hammond could send the Bird by enclosed address; sending the Bird alive in a Basket between 12 & 1 on Thursday to the Nags Head. He cd. send account to me direct.—6 I suppose it wd. be best to specify that I would give only a few shillings for it. Will Hammond tell you truly whether it is a really a common German or Dutch Pouter?—7

I am ashamed to ask you in the midst of all your troubles to attend to these trifles; & I am sure that it is uncommonly kind of you to think at all about me & my work under your circumstances. It is more, I fear, than I shd. do if placed as you are.

I am beginning to write my Book on Variation; but it will take me some two years to complete.—8

Let me repeat again my wishes for your success, & believe me | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 February [1857] (Correspondence vol. 6); see n. 5, below.
Files concerning Brent’s lawsuit in Chancery are available at the National Archives (TNA: C 15/359/B255, cause no. 1857 B255 (Brent v Boyton) and TNA: C 15/360/B287, cause no. 1857 B287 (Brent v Briggs)). See also Correspondence vol. 12, letter from B. P. Brent, 2 September 1864.
Brent provided information to CD on poultry, and had also given him specimens (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. D. Fox, 3 January [1856], and letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 March [1856]). See Variation 1: 270 for CD’s interest in the flight of silk fowls.
Brent was a regular contributor to the Cottage Gardener.
For CD’s request to William Bernhard Tegetmeier for German pouter pigeons, see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 6 February [1857]; the passage of the letter that CD struck out is in Manuscript alterations and comments. CD also refers to Philip Castang, a game dealer, who is listed in CD’s Address book (Down House MS) under ‘Pigeons’, at Ship Tavern Passage, Leadenhall Market, an area of London associated with meat and poultry markets; see also Post Office London directory 1861.
Hammond is listed under ‘Pigeons’ as ‘dealer’ in CD’s Address book (Down House MS), at 37 Kent Street, Borough; however, Hammond is not listed in the Post Office London directory and has not been further identified. The address that CD enclosed was probably George Snow, Nag’s Head Inn, 102 Borough High Street, Southwark. Snow was the Down carrier who made weekly trips to and from the Nag’s Head public house, in south London (Freeman 1978). No mention of the purchase of a pouter pigeon about this time has been found in CD’s Account books (Down House MS).
CD had previously ordered some German pouter pigeons but was not satisfied that they had been purely bred (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 11 February [1857]).
CD had begun writing his species book, or what he sometimes called his ‘Book on Variation’, in 1856, but he interrupted his work in 1858 to write an abstract of it, Origin (see Correspondence vols. 6 and 7, Appendix II). The first two chapters of the species book became Variation, and the remaining chapters were published posthumously as Natural selection (see Natural selection, p. 1).


Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Sympathises with Brent’s legal difficulties. Declines offer of a cock silk fowl, but accepts offer of a German old fashioned pouter pigeon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Bernard Peirce Brent
Sent from
Source of text
Richard Brent (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2048F,” accessed on 20 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)